Friday, July 24, 2020

Classics I Can Return To - Part Ten

It's time once again to take a look at those video games that--despite my immense backlog, despite the seemingly never-ending amount of new games being released, and despite a seemingly ever-decreasing amount of free time--are the games that I keep coming back to for replay after replay. Maybe it's just to return to familiar gaming territory, have a deep dish of comfort gaming, or play something that tickles my nostalgia bone, but I can't help but return to these games as if they were old friends of mine.

Speaking of returning to things, it's been over two years since I posted Part Nine of Classics I Can Return To on SuperPhillip Central, so it's about time to make up for it, wouldn't you say! Before we do that, however, check out all nine past parts of this ongoing series of articles with these conveniently placed links:

Marvel's Spider-Man (PS4)

With Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales web-slinging onto the PlayStation 5 this holiday season, there's no better time to bring up the original game from developer Insomniac Games and ensnare the game once more into SPC's collective web. This open world action game gave me the feeling of controlling Spider-Man unlike any game previous, which is no small feat. Traveling around the island of Manhattan posed a slight learning curve, but once one rose to the occasion, they could jet around New York City with style and grace. In essence, one wasn't just controlling Spider-Man; Insomniac Games made it feel like you WERE Spider-Man, as hokey as that may sound. Even with earning the Platinum trophy for the game (humble brag there, possibly), I keep coming back to Spider-Man's amazing, spectacular PlayStation 4 outing. With the PS5 follow-up planned for release this year, I think I'll don the mask of the webhead once again--pending there's enough space on that blasted hard drive of mine.

Super Mario Maker 2 (NSW)

It says something about a game that I pretty much played it nonstop for the three month post-launch period, whether it was playing through Nintendo's collection of Story Mode levels, playing other creators' levels, or making my own levels. My currently Switch playtime for Super Mario Maker 2 is well over 200 hours, and that World Maker update that Nintendo bestowed onto creators as the last major update for the game, only caused my total playtime to soar even further. I'm the type of maker and player who prefers traditionally designed Mario levels, so that's what I like to create and also what I like to play. While Kaizo-style levels with cheap deaths aplenty may entertain (and pardon me as I put on my "snob monocle" for this), they do little for me as a Super Mario Maker 2 designer or player. However, that's the beauty of Super Mario Maker 2: You can make whatever you want, and there's probably an audience for it--pending it has some semblance of quality. It's what keeps me coming back for more now a year after the game's original release.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons (NSW)

Speaking of games that I have played almost nonstop since launch, Animal Crossing: New Horizons is more of a routine for me now than a game. Don't let me be misunderstood: there's still plenty of fun to be found in my daily or bi-daily routine with the game. I enjoy visiting with the locals, showering them with daily gifts in hopes of receiving a prized pic of them (okay, I may have made that sound unintentionally disturbing), and doing daily Nook Miles goals. Nintendo continues to give players such as myself reasons to return to New Horizons as well, such as special seasonal events that are patched into the game via routine updates. It's been four months since Animal Crossing: New Horizons released on the Nintendo Switch, and while my play schedule has slowed down considerably, I do discover new things to appreciate with the game to this day, as my 210 hours of playtime would happily suggest.

Yoshi's Crafted World (NSW)

Let's continue with the theme of cute and adorable games with Yoshi's Crafted World. Though the game has some quirks that make it a lesser experience than its Wii U (and then ported to the 3DS) predecessor Woolly World, I do find a plethora of reasons to return to Yoshi's Crafted World. It's a mostly chill and relaxing game, save for the more difficult post-game contents like damage-free boss runs. Otherwise, the act of merrily and breezily marching through levels, discovering secrets, and aiming for 100% completion in each level and world are things that keep me fascinated with this innovative and consistently creative 2D platformer. The worlds made out of everyday household objects, like paper plates as rolling green hills, is abundantly clever, and the level design houses superbly hidden secrets as well. Yoshi's Crafted World may be a different kind of platformer by design when compared to the Yoshi's Island games, but it remains one that I can't help but adore.

Trials of Mana (NSW, PS4, PC)

Time to rev up the action with these final two games on this list of latest titles to reach "Classics I Can Return To" status! Let's continue with Trials of Mana, the remake of the once un-localized Super Famicom game Seiken Densetsu 3. (The SFC game would recently as of a couple years ago be released in localized form as part of the Nintendo Switch's Collection of Mana.) This game begs to be played multiple times, as depending on the trio of protagonists you select, you visit different sections of the world, fight different villains, and have the story play out with sharp contrasts. The battle system is simple, dare I say a bit basic, but it is engaging enough that I enjoyed carefully attacking foes while being on the lookout for their windup of their own attacks and special spells and moves. Trials of Mana is truly a wonderfully done remake, and to me, my enjoyment of it rivals another RPG remake that Square Enix released earlier this year. ...Well, at least part of a remake that Square Enix released earlier this year. (No more hints!)

Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled (PS4, NSW, XB1)

Now, let's literally rev up the action with another remake with Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled! What can I say about this stellar, content-rich kart racer that I haven't already said? Wait. That was rhetorical, but still, if I repeat myself, just let me know in the comments. Between the copious amount of characters, tracks, modes, and online options via the Grand Prix and daily challenges to engage in, Crash Team Racing was reborn with the utmost of tender loving care put into it. Whether you're a fan of the Diddy Kong Racing-inspired Adventure mode, tackling N. Tropy and then N. Oxide's deviously difficult time trials, earning Wumpa Coins through completing daily challenges, or hopping online to put the pedal to the metal and test your racing mettle against the world, Nitro-Fueled has it all. Believe me when I say I greatly enjoyed what the fine folks behind the game delivered with this remake... and I continue to do so to this day!

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

The Tuesday 10s: My Favorite Multiplayer Games

It's approaching the end of Tuesday here in Central City, but that means there's still time for The Tuesday 10s to make its reappearance once more! The Tuesday 10s is a relatively unordered list of ten game-related items of a specific category. This time around, I'll be sharing ten of my favorite multiplayer games, whether they're enjoyed online, offline, or a mix of both!

After you've checked out my ten choices, feel free to let me know which multiplayer games are your favorites to bust out every now and then!

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (NSW)

We start off this list of ten multiplayer games I love the most with Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. I'm hardly what you'd call a "competitive Smash player", as I don't even have one character I stick to predominantly. Well, I do prefer to use Link in Spirit Battles, but when it comes to online and off, I change up which character I play as constantly. I prefer to play Ultimate in a local multiplayer setting, so while I don't have the option to play with friends at the moment this way because of a certain pandemic (you may have heard or read about it), I do have the option to play with family. Unlike so many fighting games I've played where I struggle to learn and memorize move inputs and combos, with Smash Bros., it's as simple as hitting an attack button and holding a direction on the analog stick. It makes it easy to jump in, play, and have some fun. With all of the characters, modes, and arenas to engage in both online and off, the "Ultimate" moniker of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate definitely isn't just for show.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (NSW)

For the next three entries here on this Tuesday 10s, I have the need--the need for speed! Beginning with Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, the Tuesday 10s feature a trio of cartoon kart racers. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe  offers an approach that works for both seasoned racers and more casual types, giving the latter a completely optional steer assist to keep them on the track. The multiplayer is generally fun for all skill levels because of this, as well as the generally satisfactory item balance--a concept that previous Mario Kart games didn't do a great job at doing. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is a racer I routinely return to because it's great for hopping online for a few tracks, or--if my brother and I are feeling a bit crazy and possessing a couple of hours--great for doing a series of 48 tracks all in a row. Now if that doesn't show some love and dedication to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, then I don't know what does!

Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled (PS4, NSW, XB1)

Moving on from Mario to Crash Bandicoot, Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled has an abundance of content attached to it--far more than Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, truth be told. Between the immense amount of tracks--whether from the original CTR, from Crash Nitro Kart, or brand new races entirely--characters that can be unlocked, a meaty adventure mode to complete, time trials to beat, and daily tasks to tackle, Nitro-Fueled has a lot going for it. I actually prefer playing this one online, as the skill ceiling is mighty high. For new players and heck, even average players, it's far too easy to grow disenchanted by the difficulty of both the Medium-level AI and well versed online players of CTR. You can lose ground easily, and when online, it's not uncommon to get lapped unless you master to art of the Sacred Fire boost and its Ultra form. Confused? Don't be alarmed, as CTR is an insanely complex and deep kart racer, and this is what makes it not the greatest game to break out for the uninitiated at parties. Still, once you get over that initial bump, the multiplayer becomes incredibly enjoyable, especially online.

Diddy Kong Racing (N64)

My final kart racer on this list of multiplayer faves is Diddy Kong Racing, which is probably my favorite kart racer of the bunch. You can play by land, by air, and by sea in one of three vehicles: karts, planes, and hovercrafts--depending on the track. Diddy Kong Racing invented the adventure mode template seen in Crash Team Racing, and dare I say, it hasn't been beat yet. Multiplayer offers up to four players to share the screen and speed through various tracks, but the stand out feature of Diddy Kong Racing's multiplayer, for me, is the ability to play the aforementioned adventure mode with another player. Now, this required a special in-game code to do so, but being able to compete together to help one another win races, complete silver coin challenges, win mini-games, and beat bosses was awesome. Diddy Kong Racing houses some of my favorite multiplayer memories on the Nintendo 64. But that isn't the only N64 classic that managed to do that...!

Perfect Dark (N64, XBLA)

Ah, yes. If there was any game on the Nintendo 64 that I devoted the most playtime to, it was Perfect Dark. This first-person shooter was so ahead of its time, and it still contains myriad features that most FPS games lack today! Multiplayer alone features so much customization with the coup de grace being customizing the personalities and difficulties of the numerous bots that could be in matches. From pugilist simulants that let their fists do the talking, to simulants that prey upon the losing opponent in matches, the personalities are so impressive. I loved customizing the look of my character by head and body model, setting up my own loadouts and scenarios, playing match after match, and leveling up (though not in an RPG sense) based on various stats like kills, steps taken, accuracy, and more. Then, there's the single player campaign, which players could engage with either co-operatively or with one player as Joanna Dark and another as a never-ending supply of enemy grunts. Like I said, Perfect Dark was so ahead of its time, and perhaps that's why I've struggled to find as compelling an FPS game since.

Bomberman 64 (N64)

Let's continue our foray with the Nintendo 64 with a blast from the past. Literally! It's Bomberman 64, and between this game and Bomberman 64: The Second Attack, its hard-to-find and valuable sequel, many sleepovers as a child were had bombing and blasting friends to smithereens (and also blowing myself up with errant placed bombs of my own). The 3D arenas brought a unique spin on the Bomberman franchise, featuring multiple tiers and spots on maps where the action truly heated up. Yes, Bomberman 64 certainly did not play the same as its 2D counterparts, but it did bring my friends and I joy. To this day, Bomberman 64's multiplayer still brings this blogger joy to play.

Mario Party 2 (N64)

There are so many Mario Party games to choose from that picking just one might seem like an impossible task. However, my favorite of the bunch remains Mario Party 2. Had it not been for the original's handful of blister-causing mini-games, the first Mario Party would have been my pick. Still, Mario Party 2 provides plenty of entertainment all the same with its focus on unfiltered fun. A fair portion of the original Mario Party's mini-games make a return in this Power Star-studded sequel, as does a collection of amusing new mini-games alike and new mini-game types. Boards are much more expansive, and the costume party window-dressing of the game is one that I enjoyed, too. I particularly have fond memories of Mario Party 2 not just for the times I played this with friends at sleepovers as a child and later on in college, but also because it was one of the first video games I played with my dad.

Super Mario 3D World (Wii U)

Speaking of Mario, how about some more Mario? Super Mario 3D World has been long rumored for a release on the Nintendo Switch, after being one of the last major games stuck on the Wii U. It's a hotly anticipated game, if ever a port could be, because 3D World is such a fantastic game. It took the approach and foundation placed by the Nintendo 3DS' Super Mario 3D Land and expanded upon it beautifully to a bigger and better game. And this time there was multiplayer, which brought all sorts of chaos, both intended and unintended, into the fold. The levels were the stars of the show, and they were made immensely more enjoyable by playing with one, two, or even three other players. Super Mario 3D World shined as one of the best experiences on the Wii U, and here's hoping we finally see it arrive on the Nintendo Switch so others can experience the game for themselves, too!

LittleBigPlanet (PS3)

From one platformer to another, LittleBigPlanet was a jack-of-all-trades in the platforming genre, offering the ability to play, create, and share levels with others in LittleBigPlanet community. This intricate and exceptional system would be the predecessor to what we see now with Media Molecule's massively marvelous Dreams game, which launched earlier this year on the PlayStation 4. Really, I could pick any LittleBigPlanet game from the trilogy as a multiplayer favorite, but it's the first game I handpicked as the representative of the franchise due to how much time I spent with the game. Far more than LittleBigPlanet 2 or 3. Whether playing with my brother through the campaign of curated levels that were created by Media Molecule themselves or hopping online with a group to play through created levels from the community, the memories I have of LittleBigPlanet are some of my most cherished on any PlayStation platform.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time (SNES)

Let's conclude this edition of the Tuesday 10s with a game that kicks a lot of shell. It's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time, my absolute favorite beat-em-up. It helps that I adore the heroes-in-a-half-shell to this day, and that the actual game itself is one of the most brilliant beat-em-ups around. Smashing through wave after wave of Foot Soldiers, beating down bosses, and chucking foes into the screen seldom gets boring. Turtles in Time is a game that I can come back to time after time and enjoy myself. It's particularly a pleasure to play through with a friend or family member. Here's hoping COVID-19 clears out sooner rather than later so I can do just that once more!